A bookstore owner once more channels Sherlock Holmes to solve a murder.
Gemma Doyle, who owns the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in a touristy Cape Cod town, learns from her best friend, Jayne Wilson, who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, that famed British actor Sir Nigel Bellingham will play Holmes in a local theatrical production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Although Gemma’s a Brit herself, she makes no claims to any Conan Doyle family relationship and is unimpressed by aging actors. Even so, she’s drawn into the hoopla and is happy to take advantage of the occasion to sell her goods. Jayne’s mother, Leslie, who once had an abbreviated acting career, is over the moon, but even she notices that Sir Nigel, who has a drinking problem, is not up to the task and that his understudy, Eddie Barker, is better suited to the role. As the rehearsals are about to begin, Gemma gets roped into helping Jayne cater and serve at a fundraiser, an afternoon tea for several hundred people who will pay for the privilege of meeting Sir Nigel and the cast. The affair takes place at the stunning estate of Rebecca Stanton, the director and producer of the theater festival. Although the food and setting are perfect, Sir Nigel is drunk and obnoxious. When Gemma and her friend Grant Thompson go looking for him, she’s not entirely surprised to find his body at the bottom of a cliff. Neither Detective Louise Estrada, who dislikes her, nor Officer Ryan Ashburton, who’s dated her, is thrilled to see Gemma, who’s had experience with murder before. True to form, Gemma’s removed a piece of evidence from the scene, fearing it will implicate Jayne’s mother, and now she feels obligated to solve the crime. With no dearth of suspects among the unhappy cast and crew, Gemma uses her sharp eye for even the smallest details before the police arrest the wrong person.
The second in Delany’s series, a marked improvement over the first (Body on Baker Street, 2017), features better-developed characters and a more congenial and cerebral sleuth.